Debris Hits Endeavour On Liftoff
NASA says it's likely harmless, will examine shuttle tomorrow
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2009 8:23 PM CDT

(Newser) – When Endeavour lifted off today, onboard cameras captured pieces of debris falling off the exterior fuel tank and striking the shuttle, the Houston Chronicle reports. NASA officials say it's probably no big deal, and the crew will examine the orbiter with external cameras tomorrow. "That's a normal process for us," said one NASA official. "We saw some stuff. Some of it doesn't concern us, some of it you just can't speculate right now."

The shuttle's camera captured about a dozen pieces of debris—either foam or ice—flaking away, and at least one left three marks on the underside of the shuttle, notes the New York Times. Another NASA exec said the marks were likely just superficial dings to the coating. Debris isn't uncommon on launches, but the number of pieces on the Endeavour ascent is unusually high, notes CNET. Any damage draws careful scrutiny because of the 2003 Columbia explosion on re-entry. Foam had damaged thermal tiles on liftoff.